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5 Ways to ACTUALLY help the Environment this Earth Day

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

On Earth Day, most people want to see what they can do to help our environment. There is so much talk about what is "environment friendly" and what is more “sustainable,” but some of those “solutions” are not actually helping the problem. For instance, in my Conservation Biology course, I learned that “sustainability” is not an idea that can be measured or is even regulated. Any company can slap a “made sustainably” sticker on their packaging and not actually be doing anything to help the environment. I’m not saying to stop buying things that say “sustainable,” but I am saying to see what other actions you can take that will visibly have positive impacts on the environment.


Ironically, I ended up being in my Conservation Biology class on Earth Day, so I was able to pick my professor and the guest speaker’s brains on what steps we can take to better our Earth. So what can we do that’s actually helpful?


(I’ve placed them in order of importance, #1 being most important)


#5 – Recycle

This is usually the first thing people think to do. It’s a start...but it’s not the best tool we have to help our environment. For one, most people don’t actually know how to properly recycle. Each state has a set list of things that can be put inside of recycle bins. A package may have the ♻ symbol and say “recyclable,” but that doesn’t mean that you can ACTUALLY recycle it in your state. Your state may not have the equipment, or the resources to recycle certain items. It’s very important to see what your state recycles and where you should put each of those items. Not following the guidelines could lead your "recycling" to actually end up in the landfill, which effectively makes your recycling bin a second trash bin.


Items that go into a recycle bin need to be empty, clean, and dry. The items should be loose, and not tied up in a garbage bag or placed inside boxes.


In the state of Nevada you can recycle: glass bottles / jars, plastics labeled #1 - #7, aluminum / tin / steel cans, CLEAN aluminum foil, cardboard, junk mail, magazines, mixed paper, newspaper, telephone books.


Things you CANNOT put in your recycle bin: food, liquids, plastic bags, baby diapers, broken dishes, clothing, batteries, electronics, dirty pizza boxes, ice cream cartons (or really any item that has had food in it), needles, paper towels, paper plates, plastic wrap, snack bags / wrappers, styrofoam, yard waste


(You can however make a compost bin to compost food waste and biodegradable items).



While not everything can be placed in the recycle bin, there are other places you can take some of these items to be recycled. For example, E-waste cannot be put in your bin, but you can send it to a special facility that will break down the item and reuse the individual parts and metals.


If you’re gonna prioritize recycling only one item, prioritize recycling metal!!


In some ways, recycling E-waste and metals is better than only recycling paper. It’s cheaper for manufacturers to use recycled metal than to go through the extraction process to find new metal, and it’s better for the environment. So don’t throw your phone or computer away! Look up how you can recycle electronics in your state. (check these two websites for the state of nevada: https://www.republicservices.com/residents/recycling/e-waste


If none of those options work for you, you can always donate your used items to a donation site (but don’t donate your trash of course).



#4 – Be part of / give to organizations that plant trees

We all know that trees take carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen, so it’s pretty obvious why we would want to do this. But don’t just go out and plant any random tree in your backyard, it’s important that the trees planted are native the environment that you’re in so that they don't become invasive and disrupt the pre-existing habitat.




#3 – Reuse

The next time an item breaks or is no longer of use to you, don’t just throw it away, think of how you can fix the item, or even re-purpose it to use again. That old shirt you don’t like, use it as a cleaning rag, or as a dry-off towel for your hair (that one goes out to my curly heads). Reuse plastic grocery bags as small trash bags. Instead of buying items that can only be used once, purchase items that can be reused multiple times!


#2 – Reduce

What’s better than recycling or reusing all of your junk??? Not buying it at all. This goes for clothing, electronics, food (eating out, eating meat, eating fast food), and any other product you can think of. If you can go without it, think about...going without it. If we decrease or slow down our demand, we relieve some of the stress that we put on our environment.


#1 – Educate

Education is by far one of the most important and most attainable ways to improve and protect our environment. People cannot make environmentally friendly decisions if


1. They do not know that there is a problem and

2. If they are not given ways to mitigate the problem.


Being educated enough to vote for legislation and people that will stick up for the environment is crucial, but in order to make these decisions, people need to care enough about the issue to do something about it.


So this means that you should educate yourself on the state of our world, find out what things are causing the decline of our climate, and figure out some ways you can be part of the solution.


To take this one step further, it’s crucial that we educate children!! Educate your kids, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, neighbors, friends’ kids, etc. Introduce them to nature and wildlife. Teach them to respect nature and to not be afraid of it. If we can get children to care and be knowledgeable of our world, when they grow older, they will be more inclined to make decisions that have positive impacts on our environment.


Do not be discouraged! Keep taking action to positively impact our world, keep encouraging others to do the same.







Happy Earth Day,

Kae



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